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Andrew Yang and Sasha Neha Ahuja

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang vowed in a January Forward op-ed (Andrew Yang: My vision for New York City’s Jewish community) that “a Yang administration will push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment.”

Good to know. Yang explained that “not only is BDS rooted in anti-Semitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses, it’s also a direct shot at New York City’s economy. Strong ties with Israel are essential for a global city such as ours, which boasts the highest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel. Our economy is struggling, and we should be looking for ways to bring back small businesses, not stop commerce.”

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On Sunday, though, the NY Post reported that Yang’s new campaign manager Sasha Ahuja has ties to BDS promote and Israel hater Linda Sarsour. On March 8, 2017, Ahuja and Sarsour were even arrested together in a protest outside Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Under the heading “Linda Sarsour is with Sasha Neha Ahuja and Faiza N. Ali, March 8, 2017,” Sarsour posted: “We worked to incorporate Muslim holidays into the NYC Public School system, lead campaigns against the unwarranted surveillance of Muslim communities, co-founded the first Muslim democratic club in NYC, and we get arrested in civil disobedience (unplanned) on International Women’s Day during the #DayWithoutWoman noon event organized by the Women’s March. Faiza N. Ali, we have a lot of stories to tell our grandkids.

Linda Sarsour’s Facebook post, March 8, 2017

Ahuja tweeted on the same day: “What they don’t realize is that L. Sarsour has raised a generation of activists. She paved the way for all of us. When they come for her, they come for us all. Not on our watch. NOPE. We love you and stand with you always, Linda.”

If you recall, in March 2017 Sarsour also told The Nation that if a woman identifies herself as a Zionist, she can’t be a feminist, too, because Zionists necessarily ignore the rights of “Palestinian women.”

The Big Bang Theory‘s Mayim Bialik reacted at the time: “It’s disgusting, it’s insulting, and it’s wrong. It creates fragmentation in a movement that needs cohesion, needs to stand together for equality, domestically and internationally.” She added: “As a feminist Zionist, I can’t believe I am being asked to choose or even defend my religious, historical, and cultural identity. The ‘left’ needs to reexamine the microscope they use to look at Israel, and we all need to take a step back and remember we are stronger together: women, men, lovers of peace, and lovers of freedom and justice.”

In the same Forward op-ed, Yang also courted the Haredi establishment, on several levels. First, he had to explain away his attacks on circumcision which, as most Jews go, Haredi and otherwise, is a pretty big thing: “I will not get in the way of anyone’s right to circumcise their children and maintain the traditions of their faith. I have and always will attend friends’ brissim to celebrate this important religious milestone in the life of their new children.”

Yang declared in a Daily Beast interview that he was aligned with the anti-circumcision folks and that history would prove them right. He later took it all back, suggesting every parent should be allowed to decide whether or not to circumcise their sons – and recalled for the first time all those “brissim” he had attended.

Yang also said that “as mayor, I’ll respect religious freedom,” which was taken as a hint that he would leave educational choices to the parents as well, which Haredi groups saw as a promise to get off their backs on teaching core curriculum subjects such as math and English. Agudah’s Rabbi Yerucham Silber issued a statement saying, “We commend any candidate who affirms the importance of parental choice and who recognizes the healthy results of yeshiva education. This is indeed an issue of fundamental importance to our community.”

Of course, the Yaffed group, which advocates compelling yeshivas to teach their students the subjects that would help their integration into the job market and academia, was irate. Naftuli Moster, executive director of Yaffed, said the city and Haredi Yeshivas must be working to ensure that NYC students—including Haredim—receive a high-quality education, not remove the city’s control over what’s being taught to Haredi yeshiva students.

Finally, Yang is against anti-Semitism, as he wrote in the Forward: “I share the Jewish community’s anger about the recent rise in hate crimes. In 2019, anti-Jewish attacks made up 58% of all hate crime complaints in New York City. We need to do a better job at guarding against all hate crimes, including anti-Semitic ones. The NYPD, in conjunction with federal authorities, must focus on rooting out hate and gun crimes rather than nonviolent offenses.”

How do we go about that? Simple: “Through our clergy, community groups, and schools, we can do a better job at fostering empathy and understanding across race, religion, and ethnicity,” Candidate Yang stated.

The 2021 New York City mayoral election will consist of Democratic and Republican primaries on June 22, 2021, followed by a general election on November 2, 2021. Of course, the choice for the next mayor will be made in the Democratic June primary, because it’s New York City and we don’t have Republicans outside of Staten Island. This will be the first time primary voters will be using the ranked-choice method: instead of indicating support for only one candidate, voters will rank the candidates in order of preference.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.